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Automated Wayleaves May Boost Fibre Broadband and 5G Rollout

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020 (4:02 pm) - Score 4,035
Red Road Closed road sign in a UK city street.

Securing legal access agreements (wayleaves) from UK landlords in order to install new gigabit-capable fixed broadband or 5G mobile infrastructure can be a slow and expensive process, but now a new automation technology has been developed that could handle tens of thousands more wayleaves per week.

Wayleaves are notoriously complicated and often costly legal agreements, which grant special access to land or buildings for the deployment and management of new infrastructure, such as running a new fibre optic cable through buildings or installing related infrastructure in fields. But these can be tricky because each land or building owner requires a separate approach and then the wayleave may need approval from tenants, which takes time.

In response Trenches Law has spent much of 2020 developing a new automated solution that could help to reduce some of the time and cost involved with securing wayleaves. Under this approach clients can send in a digital map of their network build phase and the new system will then automatically interrogate Land Registry and other available databases to identify all relevant wayleave stakeholders.

After that the system, working as part of a mailing house integration, then automatically produces all relevant documentation and prepares everything to be distributed. “A workflow also steers onward stakeholder dialogue, from the carrying out of face-to-face visits, to the negotiation of wayleave terms, the issuing of statutory notices as required, and advanced reporting that triggers a ‘green light’ when all build dependencies have been resolved,” said the company.

The project is the brainchild of Trenches Law’s co-founder and operations director Terry Daniell, who began his career as a broadcast engineer with ISP BT and went on to hold senior roles at Virgin Media.

Terry Daniell said:

“On average, 20-30% of properties in a build project require wayleave consents. However, the admittedly complex wayleave process is embarrassingly outdated. Its manual nature takes up too much time and is consequently far more expensive than is necessary in a digital age.

We sought to challenge what has regretfully become an industry norm, and the result is the ability to execute the wayleave process quicker, easier, and with a greater degree of accuracy too.”

The new system is being launched this month and further development is being planned over the coming months. For example, the company is currently aiming this at network operators (mobile and fixed line ISPs), but it will soon also be made available to “design and build teams tasked with finding the simplest and most effective cable routes.”

Ordinarily we wouldn’t carry news about this sort of development as it’s not a consumer-facing solution, but in this case we can envisage the new system having a noticeable impact and that in turn would benefit everybody down the chain. The proof will of course be in the pudding and we’ll be waiting to see what kind of experiences operators have.

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10 Responses
  1. Avatar Carol Wright says:

    Wayleaves are bloody nightmare. We waiting for approval for months and months then Openreach withdrawal. No FTTP now.

  2. Avatar CarlT says:

    This will make Rahul happy.

    1. Avatar Rahul says:

      I’m pretty amazed to see you mention my name, Carl! You didn’t forget me!!

      I will indeed be very happy if such legislation can be put into effect to ease wayleave restrictions, especially from private building managements that quite blatantly refuse to agree permission for no good reason at all!

      This is probably the only way this wayleave agreement can happen, by sheer force. Just waiting and hoping for the management company to make an agreement will take years or maybe never.

  3. Avatar Andrew Campling says:

    Wayleaves can add a huge amount of time to the installation of broadband and other comms services into buildings, especially in London where the legal profession seems to encourage landlords to produce custom wayleave agreements surprisingly often. And that’s when you can get landlords to engage of course!

    So anything to take friction out of the system is to be encouraged, albeit that this appears to be an automated workflow system rather than the fully automated wayleave process implied by the headline.

    1. Avatar Shannon says:

      Frankly I think there should be a legal requirement for landlords to deal with issues that arise, not just in terms of stuff like wayleaves but also anything else they tend to skate around dealing with.

    2. Avatar Rahul says:

      Yes indeed, and the current system is very unfair, especially when you consider that the current system of agreeing wayleaves doesn’t always match registered interests for an FTTP provider all the while denying access for all the buildings managed by that particular company.

      For example I’m a Hyperoptic champion of my building last 5 years here in Central London. Despite registering and persuading 30+ people of my residential building to register their interest successfully, my management company EastendHomes refused to agree wayleave despite high demands, so all my hard work basically went to waste.

      The sad part is we didn’t even have FTTC until October 2019. Our ADSL service was horrendous, causing constant drop-outs (only when calling ISP to manually cap the SNR to 9dB profile did it solve the problem). Yet trying to explain this to the Technical Services Manager or the Housing Estate Manager made no difference, a complete lack of respect and disregard for the sufferers of my building under ADSL. I wasn’t alone, I spoke to so many other people who also had connection drops on our former EO Line.

      FTTC came and fortunately finally solved the problem after many years of struggle. Last 7 months I’m having the best internet connection of my life thanks to FTTC. But it came too late and FTTC is not a credit or contribution made by the management company as no wayleave is required. Frankly, I’d be surprised if my management EastendHomes are even aware that we finally have FTTC, that’s how indifferent they really are!

      Meanwhile 2 other flats that we have managed by Tower Hamlets Homes have been granted wayleaves for Hyperoptic without hardly having any number of registered interests!

      There is no justice in the current wayleave system because when a management company refuses wayleave all the buildings managed by that company get rejected Full Fibre even when some of them desperately need upgrading from an EO Line that has no FTTC. While getting wayleave agreement for one building automatically grants wayleave for all the buildings owned by the company irrespective of the desire or desperation to have FTTP installed!

  4. Avatar A_Builder says:

    @Rahul

    “There is no justice in the current wayleave system because when a management company refuses wayleave(s) sic”

    There is usually a ‘not to be unreasonably withheld’ clause in the lease wrt to consents. What does your lease say on this – you have not responded where I have made this point before?

    “While getting wayleave agreement for one building automatically grants wayleave for all the buildings owned by the company irrespective of the desire or desperation to have FTTP installed!”

    That isn’t true. Wayleaves, as you describe them, are generally bespoke to buildings and areas of building and are restrictive in what areas may be accessed. I’ve never come across the idea that say you can knock a nail in somewhere allows you to do whatever you want: it doesn’t IRL.

    It can be more complex where there is a share of freehold arrangement as was trendy in 80/90/00’s as the freehold company may have an interest in the property and is so a co-owner. And is not simply a feeholder of the land and associated interests. If this is the case what I say below may well not be true.

    It sounds to me that a not very competent gatekeeper at the freehold company has been blowing smoke here. Housing Association thinking often revolves around – keeping stuff off their desk is a priority, all of itself.

    Have you written to the Trustees on this – you can look them up at the Charity Commission website?

    I would write and threaten to make a complaint to the Charity Commission: that the Charity is not fulfilling its charitable objectives to the leasholders and tenants by depriving them of reasonable access to bla bla bla. Identify which specific charitable objectives are being breached. The main things about CC complaints is that it causes an enormous amount of work for the Trustees office if the CC do carry out an investigation and you may well discover that magically someone more senior is put in touch and all the problem melt away.

    In the same letter I would also threaten to take the landlord to the 1st Tier Tribunal *if* there is a ‘not to be unreasonably withheld’ clause in the lease. If such a clause exists and you can demonstrate a valuation differential then potentially you can make a claim for compensation on the basis of the “unreasonable witholding” and I would show a simple excel calculation as to the sums involved from the point in time when you first requested the wayleave in writing. Over a period of years this could be a big number which will, of itself, garner attention.

    There is an art to complaining and that involves being brief, factual, calm & clear but not aggressive, other than in legalese (that makes sense) so the reader gets the drift that you will follow through. That usually gets the letter upstairs fast and into the hands of problem solvers at the right level.

    And don’t make empty threats of action that cannot be followed through on – that get to the circular filing cabinet.

    Good luck.

    1. Avatar Rahul says:

      @A_Builder: I did a few google searches which shows “EastendHomes will not unreasonably withhold permission.” I know nothing more than that. I have never been given any explanation in writing on the reasons for refusal of Fibre wayleave. Over the last few years any discussion that I had in person or on the phone was oral.

      Like for example “At this stage we aren’t in the position to agree anything on Fibre because we have other more important priorities to focus on” Or “If we are going to agree on Fibre, we will do it with another provider, not Hyperoptic” Or “Right now we aren’t in a position because it requires digging the pavements”. Another response was “I can’t promise you Fibre any time soon, but maybe next year”.

      These are the kind of responses I’ve had, but when I email for more information even after a lengthy gap, they never ever respond back to my emails. Even when I add secondary recipients such as the Hyperoptic representative to the email discussion and they try to email there is no response whatsoever. The Hyperoptic representative offered to meet the team in person but they ignored the request. They even told me that my management EastEndHomes (Technical Services Manager) who is named ‘John Hinds’ doesn’t even answer their phone calls and to try and get hold of him. They just tactfully avoid the “Fibre” subject matter unless it is a query related to something completely different.

      Since then I have basically given up chasing them further because now that I have FTTC I am a little bit less desperate for FTTP now. FTTC has so far provided a great service, but it’s a shame that I had to indeed get upgraded to FTTC instead of FTTP simply because of the wayleave obstacle. No doubt if I still remained on ADSL (formerly EO Line) I would’ve been more persistent and adamant to apply pressure. There has been a lot of building renovation works over the last few years such as cladding so I decided to wait until those are fully complete.
      —-
      Regarding wayleaves from my observation from the Hyperoptic map. When one management company for a particular building shows “Building permission granted”

      “We have an agreement to proceed with our installation for your building.”

      This ends up reflecting for all the buildings owned by that company. And then you’ll also see many of those that have agreements, tend to have agreements for CommunityFibre, Virgin Media, Openreach FTTP, etc. I’ve done post code searches for some of the residential buildings, and I have noticed that usually when there hasn’t been any agreement for Hyperoptic such as… “Awaiting building permission” those same properties don’t have wayleaves for the rest of the FTTP providers.

      This is basically a reflection of the management team who are of-course not willing to come forward because they simply won’t care and treat this as a nuisance unless they personally had a pecuniary interest.

    2. Avatar Optimist says:

      @Rahul: Sounds like corruption to me.

  5. Avatar joe says:

    This sounds more like a process for outsourcing the tiresome task of getting Ws than anything?

    You’d probably get more gain from changes around a common format and insofar as public land national standardisation of the compensation/terms for most case types.

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